Starting off shy: Introverts and orientation
Introversion is the paralyzing fear that everybody in the universe—except your mom, maybe—thinks you’re an idiot. I doubt that’s the actual definition, but as a terrified freshman who gets sweaty palms when asking for a pencil, it accurately sums up how I feel about starting college.
Contrary to the misconceptions many people have about us, introverts don’t actually hate people. We crave social interaction just like the rest of you—we just crave it in smaller doses, preferably interspersed evenly with slightly longer stretches of time when nobody is asking us “name, hometown, major?” every two seconds. We can talk for hours to someone we’ve known for a while and/or share common interests with. We’re absolutely terrible at making small talk, but we love people, at least in familiar groups of two to six.
When you throw us into a hectic speed-dating pool with millions of unknown faces and tell us to “make friends, sweetheart,” we tend to shut down a bit. It’s hard to form relationships in one, two or eight days, especially when you can’t remember more than three names and four (completely separate) faces. You can reassure us by saying that everyone is in the same boat, but that advice starts to grow stale when we walk into the dining hall and ohmygod I shouldn’t have gotten this much food I probably look like a slob ohmygod who do I sit with ohmygod….
For an introvert, there are few places in this world lonelier than a crowd.
Whether we like it or not, we’re going to be playing a lot of ice breakers with a lot of people and trying to engage in a lot of small talk. It’ll be difficult to get past the part where our insecurities prevent us from making 10 best friends during Bear Beginnings and our nervousness keeps us from actually making meaningful conversation with the few faces we do manage to remember and our shyness leads to a lot of freaking out about what this random person thinks of me and maybe they think my voice sounds weird because I think it sounds pretty weird and maybe they think I’m rolling my eyes when I’m really not and maybe, maybe we should all just calm. Down.
Introversion is a lifestyle, not a disability. The sooner we recognize that, the less horrifying college is going to be. When you’re panicking in the Danforth University Center and desperately searching for someone to sit with at lunch, try to brush aside your hypersensitivity to perceived social cues.
Just convince yourself that you’re nothing less than a tall, dark, mysterious stranger who inexplicably captures the curiosity and attention of the lucky few who are blessed with your weighty, carefully chosen words. Otherwise, suck it up and talk about the weather—you’ll find a comfortably small group of friends soon enough.